Review - DARK NIGHT:A TRUE BATMAN STORY AUTHOR: Joey Perotti
Date: June 17, 2016
SYNOPSIS: The Caped Crusader has been the all-abiding icon of justice and authority for generations. But in this surprising original graphic novel, we see Batman in a new lightóas the savior who helps a discouraged man recover from a brutal attack that left him unable to face the world.
In the 1990s, Eisner Award-winning writer Paul Dini had a flourishing career writing the hugely popular Batman: The Animated Series and Tiny Toon Adventures. Walking home one evening, he was jumped and viciously beaten within an inch of his life. His recovery process was arduous, hampered by the imagined antics of the villains he was writing for television including The Joker, Harley Quinn and The Penguin. But despite how bleak his circumstances were, or perhaps because of it, Dini also always imagined The Batman at his side during his darkest moments.
DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY is the harrowing and eloquent autobiographical tale of Diniís courageous struggle to overcome a truly desperate situation. It is a Batman story like none other and one that will truly resonate with fans. Art by the incredibly talented Eduardo Risso (100 BULLETS, DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE).
Itís easy sometimes to believe the hype. To build something up in your head so much that itís already your favorite thing ever long before it even comes out. Despite positive proclamations, itís only in private that we are able to admit the flaws of something we publicly deem ďperfect.Ē The Animated Series Batman is ďmy Batman.Ē To me, itís the definitive take. And Paul Dini, the writer of such classics as ďHeart of IceĒ and ďAlmost Got ĎIm,Ē as well as the co-creator of Harley Quinn, is my definitive Batman writer. When his new hardcover was announced, Dark Night: A True Batman Story, it was already my favorite thing ever. When I went to my local comic book shop this morning to pick it up, I was both stoked that they had a copy in stock and terrified that it wasnít going to live up to my expectations. Maybe Iím high on the hype, but Dark Night might very well be my favorite graphic novel of all time.
As noted in the bookís title, the story is a true one, following Dini as a young up-and-coming WB animation writer living what he sees as ďthe life.Ē When heís attacked and left for dead, ďthe lifeĒ reveals itself to be nothing more than a visage of carefully curated animation cels and action figures. Dini narrates his depression as he struggles with on his own slew of personal demons, rendering themselves in the form of Batmanís rogues gallery. The villains tempt him to feel sorry for himself, to drink his problems away, to become selfish. And he indulges them. And then thereís Batman. Telling him to pick up, carry on, to be smarter, not let it happen again. To live. He ignores this voice for as long as he can.
Speaking of Batman and his rogues, Eduardo Risso instantly becomes one of my favorite comic artists of all time. Iíve admired his work in the past, but the amount of passion he brings to this story is unreal. His art evokes the likes of Tim Sale and Marcos Martin while remaining solely his own. His style changes from scene to scene depending on Diniís state of mind; one page is classic Risso, reminiscent of his work on Broken City, while the next will find him playing with a more exaggerated, Saturday morning cartoon kind of look. But itís all cohesive and gels together wonderfully. The colors play a large role in tying everything together, which, if Iím not mistaken, is also the work of Risso. His art in this book will be picked apart and studied by fans for years to come.
Diniís story is dark. It deals with that ugly part of ourselves that we never wish the world to see, and yet we recognize it instantly. This is Paul Dini on a slab, bare for all the world to see, and yet the book never feels indulgent. Dini never loses track of the story heís telling, and the fact that he was able to take his real life experiences and structure them into a compelling story is fascinating.
Right out of college, I had the privilege of working with Paul Diniís brother, Steve. I didnít know it at the time, of course, but once he let slip that his brother Paul worked in animation (it took me half a second to connect the last name), I bombarded him with fanboy questions. Steve told me his brother was going to be crashing on his couch that weekend (I thought he was going to set up a meeting - oh to be young) and if I had anything Iíd like to get signed. I brought him my first edition copy of Mad Love - already signed by Bruce Timm - and in the comic bag I dropped a (love) letter thanking Paul Dini for all the wonderful stories over the years. The next week, my copy of Mad Love was not only signed, but the back board had a lovely note and drawing of Harley Quinn. Now framed, it hangs above my desk when I write.
That story is just a really long-winded way of saying thatís the kind of guy Paul Dini is, which makes it incredibly easy to root for him. It also made it very easy to believe this book was going to be my favorite thing ever long before it ever hit shelves. Diniís stories are about hope. Yes, this story goes to some deep, dark places that we rarely ever want to admit to ourselves exists, but it also ends on a bright note, that what we do - no matter how big or small - has an impact on the world around us. Itís easy to listen to the Joker and indulge the lesser aspects of your personality. Itís much harder to listen to Batman tell you that you need to exercise, or change your diet, or simply be better.
Thatís why Diniís Batman has always been my favorite. His stories have a way of reminding and reinforcing what Batman means to all of us. In a way, this story evokes Frank Robbinís and Dick Giordanoís classic, ďThe Batman Nobody Knows,Ē in that while the bad guys can have nightmares about the big, bad Bat, his effect on the innocent is the opposite. Over the course of the story, Dini loses faith in Batman, but through the lessons of the Dark Knight, is finally able to accept himself, his situation, and believe, not only in hope, but in heroes. Truth be told, this isnít a Batman story at all, and yet it might be the best one. - Joey Perotti
Joey Perotti: Teacher. Screenwriter. Husband. Lifelong fan of the Bat.
Follow him @JOEYPEROTTI.